This morning Ava surprised us. When it was time to go eat breakfast, which we have at the hotel buffet, Ava shook her head no and said "Go shopping." I knew what she meant. She wanted to go to the 7-11 and get food more to her liking (probably REAL Chinese junk food). She sat with Aleah and I in the dining room, then I did take her to the 7-11. She chose a cup of hot spicy noodles and something that looked like small biscuits wrapped in paper. Tonight she had us try them. I would say they are the Chinese version of donuts - not too sweet, but no roughage. Tonight she wanted to return with me when I made my nightly "bottled water" trip. I finally found either cough drops or throat lozenges for Ava (I'm not sure which, but she agreed she needed them). She chose more hot spicy noodles, and spicy kelp, which she ate out of the package by squeezing it from the bottom. She also bought "Off" bug spray. The mosquitoes left welts on her legs today. It rained while we ate dinner, but just misted off and on the rest of the day, so that was perfect! Ava had an ice cream cone after dinner, so she has a sweet tooth.
John came with our driver and we took Ava down to the clinic, where she was medically cleared for TB, so now her Visa can be issued. The medical clinic was full and bustling with people and John said they were all people wanting to immigrate to the United States! There were people of every age. John then took us to the Marriott, where the American family from St. Louis is staying. John had to take a family to meet their new child, and he was very nervous about what we were about to do, but he helped us to the extent he possibly could, taking us to the subway and purchasing tokens with our money, making sure we got on at the right place. Poor Ava! John told her that as the only Chinese speaking person in the group, he was depending on her to get us there and back safely! Ava took that seriously and was clearly worried, checking subway maps and directions at each stop. Brad tried to show her that he knew where to go, but she still was clearly worried. She took out the paper John had written in Chinese for where we were to go. After studying it and looking worried, she spoke to a Chinese man near her in our subway car. Clearly, she was asking him for directions. He was very nice and helpful to her, even showing her on the light-up board where we were at and where we were to get off. There is a switch you have to get out on at one point, making it more complicated. After a bit, she finally relaxed some and decided we were in the right place.
We went to the Safari Park, which is the largest zoo in China. It was spectacular! There were lots of Pandas eating bamboo, koalas, including mothers sleeping with their babies in their arms, giraffes, elephants, white tigers, you name it, there seemed to be some of everything. We rode the train for an hour, which took you close to the animals - a little too close at times, such as when the black bears were close to the train. (I think they were separated by an electric fence, in addition to a sort of moat.)
Ava got in free, primarly because of her good bargaining skills. She argued with the man at the ticket window that she was under the height for whether or not you have to pay. (She was actually right on the line.) She then had to argue again with the two young women taking tickets, and they made her step on a box to measure again. She saved me 200 yuan!! Ava is clearly used to bargaining! China is the only place I know of where the shopkeepers will ask you "How much?" and not the other way around. Johns says if there is a price on it, you cannot bargain, but if not, you can bargain away! I hailed a cab after we left, handing the driver the card John gave me from the Victory. Ava once again did the talking. She took John's instructions seriously and wanted to be sure we arrived safely back at the hotel. The other family went to see their new daughter's finding place, which was, like Ava's, at a busy bus stop.
I decided today the painted lines that designate traffic lanes in China are merely "suggestions." No one pays much attention to them. I also noticed that their public buses have hand holds where we would have head rests. They are for the people standing in the aisles who need to brace themselves for the lurching of the bus. The number of people in China is just overwhelming! People everywhere you look!!
John asked Ava this morning if she remembered with 2008 Chengdu earthquake. She said yes, she was at school and the ground shook and there was a lot of noise from things falling, and everyone in the school went outside. The town thirty minutes away was destroyed. John says people go visit it to see the destruction. He says the government does not intend to rebuild it, but to leave it exactly the way the earthquake left it as a sort of memorial to the people. Ava said she was living with her foster family on the twelfth floor of an apartment building and they were afraid to go into their building, so they bought a tent and slept outside for a week. She said they only went back to their apartment to bathe during that time period. She said thirty children were brought to her orphanage who had lost parents, and that most of them have families now, some in China, and some in other countries. She said they were almost all under the age of seven.
We plan to make an early night of it, as tomorrow morning we have to meet John in the lobby at 8:20. (John is always early, so we will go down at 8:00). We have our appointment with the American Consulate. We can take pictures outside, but then have to put our cameras in a locker as they are not allowed inside. When I adopted Aleah, all the adoptive parents took an oath together to care for the children, but now they do it individually, one at a time at the window. We plan to shop afterward, as we have not had opportunity to do so yet!! I am ready to come home, where I don't NEED a thirteen-year-old interpreter, where I can eat yogurt out of a carton instead of drinking it, where I can drink water from the tap, and where the traffic stays in its own lane. That is just the beginning of the things I miss from the good ol' USA!!!